*Sub-Studio in design , 16:10

Solar Decathlon- 11.01.07

annahouse2.jpgNOTCOT Note: Here’s another article from Anna Corpron of Sub-Studio!

The third-ever Solar Decathlon took place two weeks ago from October 12 - 20 at Washington D.C.’s National Mall. The Solar Decathlon was established in 2002, with the purpose of educating a new generation of students about the possibilities of energy-efficient design and also as a vehicle for educating the public about renewable energy and energy efficient homes. Twenty US and international university teams took part in the competition, with each team competing to design and build an energy-efficient solar-powered house. The various universities spend two years developing their designs and ideas, and also undertake the fundraising and technical research needed to build an energy-efficient home. The houses are essentially pre-fab units, built off-site first and then transported to Washington D.C. and reassembled on-site at the Mall.

The winning team was the Technische Universität Darmstadt from Germany. Can you imagine transporting the house from Germany to D.C. (it came by boat)? The home focused on the concept of passive energy and was designed essentially as a box with three layers - an outer layer of oak, louvered screens that generate electricity with photovoltaic energy, a middle layer consisting of energy efficient walls and windows, and an interior core that houses the kitchen, bathroom and the majority of the building systems. Besides the outer skin of screens that allow you as much or as little privacy and light as you wish, I really like the multi-functional spaces, and TUD’s innovative use of the floor which can be opened up to reveal a sleeping area. [Note: All photos are credited to Kaye Evans-Lutterodt/Solar Decathlon]


UT-Austin’s Bloom House also has an exterior screen system that allowed for flexibility of light, air and privacy. The roof houses solar collectors that heat the home’s water, including an exterior hot tub that is heated by the excess energy.

Montréal’s McGill University designed their home for the cold northern climate. The envelope of the home is insulated with soy-based polyurethane and a recycled plastic membrane. The use of plants to create a “green wall” further reduces energy loss and aids in rain water recovery. According to McGill’s Solar Decathlon webpage, “A unique feature of the home is the use of artificial intelligence for temperature control and energy use. The “house” will search the Web for the weather forecast to predict the amount of energy it will be able to produce in the days to come and how much it will need for its occupants. The system will recommend energy use choices to meet upcoming demands. The system controls heating, cooling, lighting, shading, and ventilation, all with one interface.”

Georgia Tech’s house was designed to maximize sunlight. The walls are translucent and are made of two sheets of polycarbonate that sandwich a thin layer of the insulator Aerogel. Clerestory windows bring in more light, and even the roof is translucent. It sure is pretty at night!

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